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Billy Grammer, Longtime Grand Ole Opry Member, Dies at 85

Billy Grammer
Decca Records

Longtime Opry member Billy Grammer passed away Wednesday morning at a hospital in his home state of Illinois. The 85-year-old Grammer was more than just an accomplished solo artist and guitarist. He was also known as a talented and loyal sideman to legends like Hawkshaw Hawkins and Grandpa Jones. Grammer is perhaps best known for his two Top 20 hits ‘I Wanna Go Home’ and ‘Gotta Travel On.’

Grammer’s other great contribution to country music was the Grammer Guitar. In the 1960s, he called the flat-top guitar “the finest flat-top guitar on the market.” According to the Grand Ole Opry website, a Grammer Guitar he presented to Johnny Cash later in the decade recently fetched over $130,000 at auction.

In 1990, Grammer was inducted into the Illionis Country Music Hall of Fame. He celebrated 50 years as a member of the Grand Old Opry in 2009. Until recently he was still in demand as a session guitarist in Nashville. “I’ve got a little more of a broad sense of music than the average guy coming up playing country music,” he said.

Grammer grew up in a coal-mining family in Illinois and later served in the Army. He got his start in music after hitchhiking to Arlington, Va. to chase a rumor that a famous promoter was looking for help. Grammer auditioned and got the job. He was married to Ruth, and the couple made their home in southern Illinois until his death.

Watch Billy Grammer Sing ‘Gotta Travel On’

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